The XX Factor

Is Callista Gingrich a Jewelry-Hoarding Harpy or the Perfect All-American Spouse?

Callista Gingrich listens to her husband speak at a town hall meeting on January 9, 2012 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The best zinger from Ariel Levy’s profile of Callista Gingrich in this week’s New Yorker comes from an anonymous former Newt Gingrich strategist, referring to embarrassing revelations about the couple’s $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany. “The core problem was that [Newt] was not willing to do the things he’d have to do to run for President,” the strategist complained. “And Callista did not want him to run for President. That’s why he had to buy her so much damn jewelry.”

There are two competing narratives about Callista in Levy’s story. One is that she’s a diamond-hoarding ego maniac who demands that she and Newt have identical word counts when they make political videos together (This is a specious claim; at least in the couple’s Christmas video, Newt says almost twice as many words as Callista does). The other is that she’s old-fashioned Cally Lou Bisek, the girl who grew up in a Mayberryish Midwestern town, is a deeply religious Catholic, never dresses down, and plays the French Horn for fun. What everyone agrees on is that Callista is the “adult” in the Gingrich marriage—not surprising, since that’s been Newt’s dynamic with all three of his wives. Levy even describes Callista’s voice, in an interview with Sean Hannity, as having “the implacable tone of a kindergarten teacher scolding a six-year-old.”

Callista’s in full-blown elementary-school teacher mode in the new video she narrates about American exceptionalism for the Gingrich campaign. Against a background of mountain lakes, amber waves of grain and her own baby photos, Callista says that American exceptionalism isn’t arrogance, because the Declaration of Independence asserts that our rights come from God—that’s what makes us so special. Full video below.